Edge is the first volume in an original science fiction story by John Meaney, writing under the name Thomas Blackthorne.
Based in a near future britain, carrying knives has been legalised and a system of dueling to settle arguments now exists which is sensationalized with the TV show Knife Edge where the best knife duels are shown.
Richard is a 14 year old who has received a fairly privileged if loveless upbringing by his corporate tycoon of a father (his mother having died years before). Along with the usual issues all kids face, Richard is terrified of knives and other weapons (a condition known as Hoplophobia and yes it really does exist, look it up) and is physically sick around weapons and violence.
Unfortunately this makes him a natural target for the school bullies and one in particular takes great pleasure in tormenting him every chance he gets. In an effort to rid himself of this aversion, his father persuades him to see a specialist psychiatrist but soon after the first session, Richard runs away.
As the police appear to be fairly apathetic to his disappearance, Richards father brings in ex SAS private detective Josh Cumberland to find him.
John creates a quite dark vision of future Britain where the streets are in some ways safer due to the legalised duels (which are actually a part of law and people can be fined for refusal). This system of duelling and accepted violence is actively encouraged by the corrupt government who help to control the populace through the "Knife Edge" TV show.
Knife Edge shows the best fighters duelling in a series of matches that eventually culminate in a series finally, on the same night as the elections.
This vision is especially poingant at the moment in the reccession hit country where politicians seem too busy dipping their hands in the pot to try and run the country alongside an increasingly unruly society.
The technology is very clearly described and completely believable while John's knowledge and research of martial arts is quite astounding. He manages to create a very rich vision of a future Britain that is disturbingly close to being quite likely.
The global political landscape is even more fractured, with the US separated into essentially 3 countries, with three leaders who don't really see eye to eye, and a corrupt UK government who controls the masses through media.
Ok so this isn't what you might call a very happy book, the central protagonist, Josh spends large amounts of the first half in extreme barely controlled anger (with good reason) but there are light hearted moments and the second half of the novel does get a bit cheerier (or at least Josh does). The characters themselves are wonderfully fleshed out and their interaction is quite mesmerising.
John (or should I saw Thomas Blackthorne) has created a dark, believable vision of a (near) future Britain, but more importantly an intelligent, slick and brilliantly executed novel with a quite unexpected but superbly scripted ending.
Written by Antony, 11 February 2010.